I recently came across about an interesting article that I wanted to share. It relates to computer repair shops and how an undercover operation by a news organization exposed some of their shady practices.
The article as originally published on pcpro.co.uk and explains how software to automatically turn on the built in webcam and record every keystroke mouse click was used to expose these shops and their bad practices.
Here is an excerpt from the article:
He also begins searching our hard drive until he finds log-in details for our Facebook and Hotmail accounts. With a cackle he removes a memory stick from around his neck, plugs it in and then copies them across.
He also discovers our holiday photos and copies those of our researcher in her bikini. The spy software takes a snapshot of the files on his memory stick.
The PCPRO article goes on to explain how the techs opened a folder named “Private” and began pursuing documents and photos and even begins copying them for personal use.
With a cackle he removes a memory stick from around his neck, plugs it in and then copies them across.
Most worryingly, when he discovers log-in details for our online bank account, he logs onto the bank’s website and attempts to break into the account. He only fails because the details we created were false.
The real message behind the article is simple. Be aware of what is on you computer and take measures to protect sensitive data. The simplest way is to encrypt sensitive files and folders. Use products like TrueCrypt or the small utility I wrote about called Easy File Locker to make sure those files are hidden and unreadable by anybody.
It’s a little bit of extra work, but will certainly put you at ease if you ever need to hand over you computer to a technician for repair.
P.S. Not all technician are searching through your files and photos. The article does go on to report on how one company’s technician fixed the problem without violating anyone’s privacy.